667 - 12/09 - Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries - Worldwide

In recent years there have been a number of fires and explosions that have originated in packages of nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries transported in standard container units.  NiMH batteries, otherwise known as portable accumulators, are rechargeable type AA, AAA and P9 batteries that leave the factory partly charged.

The mechanism, or mechanisms, by means of which these batteries can cause a fire are the subject of some debate and of further investigation.  Different factors such as manufacturing defects, methods of packing and damage to packaging after manufacture are believed to facilitate short circuits that generate heat. The resulting increase in temperature can cause further damage, a greater number of short circuits and a self-worsening situation resulting in fire, and the possible release of explosive concentrations of hydrogen gas. This mechanism has parallels with those of self-heating reactions in unstable materials that lead to spontaneous combustion and a fire.

As a result of investigations that concluded the cause of a fire was a CTU of rechargeable batteries being stowed close to a heated settling tank, Germany submitted a proposal to the IMO on 13 July 2007 concerning amendments to the IMGD Code and supplements.  The essence of the proposal was that NiMH batteries, other than button batteries, should be stored at a cool place not exceeding 60oC.  This is a sensible precaution because increases in ambient temperature increase the risk of a runaway reaction, as happens with unstable materials that are susceptible to self-heating and spontaneous combustion.  However, we are aware of incidents of fire originating in packages of NiMH batteries in containers stowed away from sources of heat, supporting the proposition that manufacturing and packaging defects are important causative factors and that stowage away from sources of heat may not remove the risk of fire in those consignments in which a defect exists.

Although investigations have shown that, under certain circumstances, factory packaged NiMH batteries have the potential to cause a fire, the carriage of these batteries is not subject to the provisions of the IMDG Code.  Carriers are, therefore, advised to require shippers to specifically declare all consignments of NiMH batteries, whereupon the carrier will be in a position to exercise prudence in deciding where to stow the container.  One option would be to stow the container above deck in an accessible location, but shielded from the sun.


Source of information:   

Carefully to Carry Committee

With thanks to Dr Chris Foster of Dr J H Burgoyne and Partner LLP

Industry developments

Polar Shipping

Legal, navigational and environmental resources, news and updates on the development of polar shipping. Read more

US VRP Compliance

With effect from 30th January 2014 non-tank as well as tankships calling at US ports will be required to submit VRPs.  For Club and other resources to assist in compliance click here

International Environmental compliance

Environmental Compliance resource page collates material in respect of International environmental compliance issues affecting our Members. Information from the Club, Loss Prevention and external resources has been collated in one place for ease of reference.

MLC 2006

The Maritime Labour Convention enters into force in August 2013 - resources, news & advice on implementation can be found in this dedicated section.  READ MORE

International sanctions

Recent guidance & corresponding material in respect of international sanctions against various countries has been updated with respect to temporary easing of sanctions against Iran.  READ MORE


Essential precautions and preparation against piracy, as well as additional information and resources, loss prevention advisories and useful external web links

Emergency Contacts

If you need to call our offices out of hours and at weekends, click After Office hours for a up to date list of the names of the Duty Executives and their mobile phone numbers. 

Ship Finder

This Ship Finder is updated on a daily basis. Members who need to advise the Club of updates to their recorded ships' details should advise their usual underwriting contact.